Interview: Daniele Bolelli, Author of 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know: Religion

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I recently received a copy of the book 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know: Religion as a gift from a friend. It looked like a neat little book – actual size is about a 5″x5″ square – so I thought I would browse through it and put it on the table with the magazines. I started reading through it and was hooked. This entertaining and educational book will have you looking at many different religions with different eyes.

Certainly some ideas in this book are controversial, but that is what makes it great. It gets you thinking about seemingly taboo subjects in a different light. I live in the “Bible Belt,” smack in the middle of Mississippi, and people here have very strong beliefs. This little book gives some great ideas for conversation starters with people of any religion that anyone with an open mind can appreciate.

I also had a chance to talk with the author Daniele Bolelli, who has written several books, is a college professor and a martial artist:

Sims: Tell me a little bit about 50 Things You Aren’t Supposed to Know: Religion. Why are we not supposed to know these things?

Bolelli: Because if you knew them already, you wouldn’t buy my book! Some of the topics are stories having to do with religion that may be relatively unknown but are either very fascinating or oddly funny. Others chapters focus on topics that may be better known but are shown under a new light. For example, everyone has heard about Moses and the Ten Commandments, but if someone were to ask you who masterminded the death of 3,000 civilians in the name of his religious beliefs, Moses would not be the first name that comes to mind. And yet, according to the Old Testament, that’s exactly what he did shortly after receiving the Ten Commandments.

Sims: You’re a martial artist and a religion scholar. How do these things go together?

Bolelli: Many people love indulging in the very unhealthy habit of devoting their lives to one thing and one thing only. This makes for very boring human beings. Life is greater and much more interesting than any one specific field. Tasting life in all of its weirdness, beauty and complexity requires us to be more than one thing.

Sims: Religion is a touchy subject. Why did you go into teaching in this area?

Bolelli: Because it’s a touchy subject! People live and die in the name of their religious beliefs, so it’s essential to play with such key topics. Ultimately, we all have to decide where we stand on these issues. Much of everything else in life depends on the answers we embrace or don’t embrace about religion.

Sims: What’s your own religious background? Were you influenced by your father? He’s a philosopher, right?

Bolelli: Neither one of my parents belonged to any religious group. Since it’s the headquarter of the Catholic church, Italy has seen a horrendous amount of bloodshed in the name of religion over the centuries. This has left many people less than enthusiastic about anything having to do with organized religion. So I grew up in a fairly atheist/agnostic environment.

Sims: You’re from Milan. What brought you to America?

Bolelli: Italy is fun if you are on vacation. If you want to get anything done, though, it’s the wrong place. It’s old, slow and hostile to any innovation. The way most people automatically respond to any new idea is cynicism.

Sims: You’re a dad. How will you handle your own child’s introduction to religion? Are you raising her a certain way? Will she be free to choose her own path?

Bolelli: I don’t know if I’d call the occasionally dropping and decapitating by mistake statues of Buddha and Ganesh an introduction to religion. Other than that, I’ll encourage her to question everything while at the same time keeping an open mind. It’s her life, so no one else should choose for her.

Sims: Do children have any sort of instinct to religion or is it all social indoctrination?

Bolelli: Since an early age people want answers to questions that are unanswerable. Social indoctrination at this point comes in with pre-cooked religious answers to soothe the craving at the roots of those questions.

Sims: Another question about your martial arts background: I Googled you and found that your nickname was “The Drunken Taoist.” What does that mean?

Bolelli: The long answer is: a training partner mentioned how my approach to fighting is like that of the old, drunken guy who often shows up in kung fu flicks. He usually will run into a tough, muscular, young challenger whose skills look amazing. The drunken guy looks like he can barely stand. But before anyone can understand what happened, the challenger is on the floor, out cold. My style doesn’t look all that impressive but I can often nullify the strengths of opponents who normally look flashy and much better than me. And no one understands how it happened. The short answer is that I like wine and Taoism.

Sims: What are you reading currently – assuming it is not your own book?

Bolelli: I just re-read “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine, and I am reading everything by Don Winslow I can get my hands on.

Sims: What is your next project?

Bolelli: I have four different books I am toying with right now. Let’s see which one is going to get the green light first.

To get your copy, visit Amazon.com

Get the Official GeekDad Books!